Tour of Oman – Stage 4 win for Valls


Spanish rider Rafael Valls (Lampre) climbs to overall lead after winning stage 4 of the Tour of Oman on Green Mountain

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Tour of Oman – Stage 4 win for Valls

Rafael Valls conquered the queen stage of Tour de Oman on the summit of the Green Mountain climb. The Spaniard from Team Lampre Merida, whose main role is to support Rui Costa on the climbs, has shown in the first part of the season outstanding form that allowed him to be the most competitive rider on the final climb of the stage, distancing his rivals Van Garderen (+5″), Valverde (+19″) and Majka (+22″).


The battle in the front of the group started on the approach of the climb, when Nibali attacked reducing the bunch at 20. BMC chased Nibali and launched Van Garderen attack at 3 km to go: Valls and no other riders could follow the American who had to surrender to Valls during the final kilometre.

The win saw Valls take over the red jersey as leader of the overall classification. “I could hardly request something more for this perfect day: I won the queen stage, I’m the new leader of the race and I could finish the perfect support I received from my team mates, among whom there was a champion such Rui Costa” Valls explained. “I was aware my form was good, in this first part of the season I have demonstrated several times I was competitive, so this is a perfect result for me and for my ambitions in these races”.

For the second straight day, strong winds and warm temperatures slowed the peloton in the 189-kilometer race. Two breakaway riders – Stijn Vandenberghe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Gijs Van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) – took advantage of the situation and built a 15-minute lead. The pair was only reeled in with less than 10 km to go as the BMC Racing Team headed up the chase with Dylan Teuns.

The BMC Racing Team assembled a formidable line-up to lead onto the lower slopes of the 5.7-kilometer climb up Green Mountain that averages 10.5 percent. Past Swiss national road champion Michael Schär initially set the pace, followed by two riders who were in the top 10 – Greg Van Avermaet, sitting fourth, and Damiano Caruso, in sixth – and finally Ben Hermans, who chased down a pair of attacks by Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team)

When van Garderen attacked in the final two kilometres, only Valls could follow. But Valls accelerated away from van Garderen with 300 meters to go to win by five seconds and earn a 10-second time bonus. Van Garderen earned a six-second bonus and stands nine seconds off the lead with two days to go.

“I was hoping for the victory. I was feeling good all day,” van Garderen said. “The team rode superb on the last climb. When I attacked, I dropped (Alejandro) Valverde and (Rafal) Majka got dropped off my wheel. So I was thinking, ‘all right, smooth sailing, those were the two guys I was worried about.’ But Valls definitely got the better of me in the final.”

“Tejay asked me to go as hard as I could to put all the guys on the limit and then he could attack,” Hermans said. “I pulled until 1.5 kilometres to go, so it was still quite long for Tejay. But I didn’t have more in the tank. I didn’t have the legs of two days ago because of the heat and it was a stage of more than six hours. So I think everybody was quite tired.”

Van Garderen’s first attack gapped Valverde and Majka. A second acceleration dropped everyone but Valls. “I was doing all the attacks to get rid of the big names,” van Garderen said. “With him (Valls) being a dark horse, he was able to catch a free ride and sit on my wheel. He attacked, then I was on him and I countered. He countered and had that last little bit in the end.”

Saturday’s stage includes four climbs in the final 60 kilometers, making it another pivotal stage, van Garderen said. “Anything is possible,” he said. “It is a hard stage tomorrow and who knows if he (Valls) is going to have the team to control. We will be motivated to attack him.”

1. Rafael Valls, Lampre-Merida 5:46:48
2. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing 0:00:05
3. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar 0:00:19
4. Rafal Majka, Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:22
5. Thibaut Pinot, FDJ 0:00:35
6. Rui Costa, Lampre – Merida 0:00:49
7. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, MTN Qhuebeka 0:00:54
8. Louis Meintjes, MTN-Qhubeka 0:00:58
9. Ben Hermans, BMC Racing 0:01:00
10. Jakob Fuglsang, Astana
1. Rafael Valls, Lampre-Merida 18:05:54
2. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Alejandro 0:00:09
3. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team 0:00:19
4. Rafal Majka, Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:32
5. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, MTN-Qhuebeka 0:01:04

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